Day 3, Week 3 - Jesus The True Vine

Jesus, The Name Above All Names

December 16, 2020 • Steven and Andrea, Faithful Ladep

DEVOTION: If you have ever visited a vineyard and carefully observed the workers you would see them spending hours pruning, twisting, tying, digging, watering and doing all that they can to ensure a full harvest. Throughout the Old Testament the Vine was used as a symbol of Israel often to show where they lacked something. God carefully tended his Vine, protecting it from harsh elements and creating an environment for it to flourish, yet they still chose to rebel. God was just to judge them harshly but He has graciously provided another Vine. In contrast to Israel, Jesus is the true Vine. He is the faithful one who fulfills all that Israel failed to do: whereas she was wild and rebellious, He was submissive and obedient; while she yielded bad fruit, He produce good fruit in keeping with righteousness. He was in every way the epitome of all God called His people to do and He calls us to union with Him so that we may also produce good fruit Left to ourself we cannot produce good fruit any more than Israel could remain faithful. We are subject to the same weaknesses and sin as they were thousands of years ago. By ourselves we would go the way of rebellious Israel. So God snipped our branches from the wild vine and grafted it into His family through Jesus. He tenderly creates the opportune environment for us to flourish in. If you wonder about your spiritual fruitfulness, Jesus last conversation with His disciples before his death offered a beautiful opportunity for prayerful reflection, “I am the Vine you are the branches, whoever abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). These were the very men who in a few hours would abandon their teacher, but afterwards repented and went on to spread the good news of Jesus throughout the world. So there is hope for any one of us who have walked away but returns with a repentant heart. The Vine dresser will prune us to produce outward fruit that demonstrates inner transformation. Surprisingly Jesus does not call us to work hard to be more fruitful rather he calls us to abide in him, to wait on him. Fruit will naturally follow for those who remained connected to him, because His spirit is the one who produces fruit (Galatians 5:22-25). We belong not because of what we do but because of who He is. He is the Vine. We are the branches, and he will bear fruit through us as we remain in him. As the true Vine, Jesus both fulfills Old Testament prophecy and makes possible our inclusion in God's family. He sustains us, connecting us with the nourishment we need to bear fruit. When we are pruned by the Father to be more fruitful, He provides the healing salve. He supports us when the weight we carry seems to be too much. Jesus is the reason we are part of the vine, apart from Him we can do nothing. In him we can bear much fruit for the Kingdom. We only need to abide and He will do the rest.

Christmas Day - Jesus, Lamb of God

December 25, 2020 • Elizzabeth, Bishop Glenn Kauffman

DEVOTION: For most of Jesus disciples the word lamb would have conjured images of bloody sacrifices brought to the temple. But let's take a step back. Why would God require sacrifices in the first place? Sin requires punishment and atonement. The sacrificial system was instituted by God himself to satisfy His righteous wrath, turning it from those who deserve it to the object be in sacrificed. Think of the first sacrifice recorded in scripture, God slaughtered an animal to clothe Adam-and-Eve, covering them and their sins at the animals’ expense. We find many significant sacrifices in the Old Testament. When God tested Abraham’s love, calling him to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, Abraham assured his son that “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” Genesis 22:8. And God did provide the ram Abraham found at the top of the mountain was killed instead of Isaac. This episode foreshadowed god's provision thousands of years later through the sacrifice of Jesus. Another significant sacrifice was the Passover Lamb. After nine horrendous plagues sent upon the Egyptians in order to secure Israel's freedom, God-sent a final one, meant to kill each firstborn son. But to protect the Israelites, God instructed them to sacrifice a lamb and brush its blood on the doorposts “the blood will be a sign … when I see the blood I will pass over you” Exodus 12:13. Here, the Passover lamb points toward Jesus whose blood would cause God's wrath to pass over those covered by it. Throughout the Bible, sacrificial lambs were killed in order to bear the burdens of people sins. Sin was transferred from the guilty party to the animal. The person was declared innocent while the animal bore the sin’s just punishment: death This sacrificial system, instituted by God himself, was limited in scope: the sacrifice of atonement was required every year. But it was all meant to foreshadow Jesus. The lamb of God came to fulfill and supersede the sacrificial system. His death on the cross atoned for all of humankind’s sins once and for all, through faith in Him This is not blind forgiveness but violent justice, not cheap grace but costly grace, not temporary oversight but eternal reconciliation. God doesn't ignore our sins - he acknowledges them and makes provision for them through his own Son. The lamb of God makes possible our relationship with God CHALLENGE: Have you lost the wonder and awe of Jesus' sacrifice for your sins? Today worship Jesus for His sacrificial atonement, for taking your sins on Himself. Pick a hymn or a song that speaks of His sacrifice and sing it to Him in thankfulness.

Day 4, Week 4 - Jesus, The Man of Sorrows

December 24, 2020 • Lia, Melissa Richardson

DEVOTION: In a society that avoids pain at all cost, Jesus actions are hard to grasp. We’re surrounded by medications to relieve pain. Many turn to drugs, abortion, euthanasia in an effort to eliminate discomfort and inconveniences from life. But rather than run away from pain Jesus ran headlong into it. In the garden of Gethsemane, we glimpse the mental anguish Jesus experiences before his betrayal. He told his disciples, "my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" Matthew 26:38 and Luke describes Jesus distress as so intense that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground Luke 22:44. Knowing full well the suffering that awaited him, Jesus pleaded with the Father to consider an alternative plan. The physical suffering, He would have to endure alone would be enough to cause any one of us to turn away, and we know enough about the Romans cruelty during crucifixions to be shaken by their brutality. But Jesus also suffered in emotional agony of being forsaken by his Father, and the spiritual anguish of bearing all the ugly inhumane horrific sins of the world on his shoulders. It was enough to make anyone want to flee in the opposite direction But Jesus knew that there was no “plan B” to satisfy God's righteous wrath. Only He could secure salvation for his beloved creatures, so He willingly accepted the hard road before him even though He did not deserve any of it: the betrayal, the mocking trial, the beating, the scorn, the humility and the torturous death through suffocation on a cross. Amazingly, Jesus had the power to stop it all with just one word, but His love for us compelled Him to step forward. He willingly walked into this His suffering, humbly allowing Himself to be ridiculed by the very ones he came to safe. Every agonizing moment he hung on the cross was another whispered “yes” to his painful course. He who commanded the universe and enjoys the worship of angels step down from heaven to despise and reject the rejected by humans. And he did it all for love.

Day 3, Week 4 - Jesus, Son of Man

December 23, 2020 • Paris, Faithful Ladep-Nandang

DEVOTION: A close study of the Gospels reveal that the most common title Jesus used for himself is the “Son of Man”. In fact, he used it 81 times in the Gospels though no one else used it to refer to Him. When the Jews heard Jesus call himself the “Son of Man”, their minds would have immediately leapt to Daniel 7. In this prophecy Daniel writes about the end times when "one like the Son of Man" will come with authority to judge the world. Jesus was claiming that title for himself and communicating to his first hearers that He has the right to judge humanity. But this title also refers to Jesus own humanity. Think of the humility Jesus endured in becoming the “Son of Man”: God eternal and magnificent “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross” Philippians 2:7-8. Jesus emptied himself of heavenly glory while still retaining his Deity and submitted to the humiliation of becoming a human. From his position as Lord of the universe, he stooped down to become a servant, washing his disciple’s dusty feet. He set aside all his prerogatives and became like one of us, bound by time and space, trading all the riches of heaven and becoming poor in both the literal and figurative sense. This “Son of Man” was unlike any other son or daughter of man. Fully God and fully man, Jesus entered our physical existence and experience the joys and anguish of being human, yet without sin. What could possibly motivate him to do this? Love. That is the beauty of the doctrine of the incarnation God invisible, glorious and untouchable took on flesh. For us.